It can be hard for a teenager to admit that their parents are right. Grace was one of these teenagers. After high school graduation, Grace wanted to join her friends at college, but her parents pushed her towards Easterseals’ Project SEARCH. They worried that her learning disability would make college too difficult of a transition, so she reluctantly signed up for the Project Search.
Since joining the program, Grace is grateful for the success she has seen. The program matched her with Atrium Medical Center, where she is still employed as a baker. She is responsible for maintaining multiple stockrooms throughout the hospital, as well as keeping doctor’s lounges stocked with hot food and salads. She is also training in the dish room, and prepares for audits from the Health Department.
Grace credits the one-on-one support she received from Project SEARCH for her successful transition into this multi-tasking environment. During her year in the program, her instructor Katie would break down tasks so that Grace would understand them. Katie taught Grace how to network and introduce herself, and to learn all the new names she was encountering. Grace graduated the program in 2015, and still enjoys her job. She is saving up for her own place, and hopes to go to culinary school, specifically pastry school.
As she looks back on how far she has come, she candidly advocates for Project Search and other programs like it. “Without Easterseals,” she reflects, “I don’t think I would have known what to do.”
Grace participates in Advocacy Day in March 2017 by joining Easterseals staff in Columbus to speak for the rights of individuals with disabilities. She wants to stand up for those who are struggling, the way that friends and family did for her. She wants to break down stereotypes and change the way the world views and defines disability.
“‘Disability’ is a barrier,” she declares. “It is a brick wall that kids cannot tear down because of the label.” She knows from personal experience how valuable special programs are to helping decrease stigma, and wants to share her story so that legislators understand, too. Her philosophy is that individuals with disabilities should be treated the same as everyone else. She is proud to have Easterseals at her side in this journey.
“It means hope for others in the community where there might not be jobs,” she says. “It means a future.”